Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Soul Train" sold; heading to digital?

Earlier this week, "Soul Train" founder Don Cornelius sold his company and his dream to MadVision, a California-based production company that hopes to bring the long-running TV series into the digital age.

And it's a good thing.

"Soul Train" has run for 38 years in syndication and has developed a devoted following. However, in the past few years, the show has gotten stale. Cornelius turned over hosting duties to TV actors like Shemar Moore ("The Young and the Restless") and the show stopped attracting the great guests who once made it famous.

In a world of MTV, BET and digital downloads, big-time stars apparently didn't feel the need to go stand on stage and lip-synch anymore. And the "Soul Train" dancers stopped being the trendsetters they once were.

Singers like Jody Watley was once a "Soul Train" dancer. Actress/dancer Rosie Perez started as a "Soul Train" dancer.

During the show's heydey, some of the dancers became as popular, in certain areas, as the stars on the stage.

For the past two seasons, re-runs of some of "Soul Train's" greatest episodes have been airing; the aim has been to show a new audience a little history.

MadVision hopes to expand on that -- as well as to reintroduce a revamped weekly edition of new episodes.

“The series has never been shown on DVD, and it’s not been utilized on video-on-demand or mobile or Internet platforms,” said Peter Griffith, a co-founder of MadVision. “There are many opportunities that we are exploring.”

MadVision, which was founded in 2006 by three urban media veterans, is best known for the Showtime stand-up comedy series “White Boyz in the Hood.”

MadVision is currently in talks with potential producers about how a new show might look. It'll be interesting to see if they can breathe new life into the product and make it relevant again.

It may be a good time to do it.

Music videos aren't as popular as they once were, and possibly co-branding a live show with an Internet show, for example, might attract the YouTube audience.

I know a lot of fans have long wanted to be able to buy the older "Soul Train" episodes shows on DVD, to see a young Michael Jackson sing "Got To Be There" or to see and hear Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin or Chaka Khan perform. A great idea would be to make those old episodes available on pay-per-view via, say, Netflix's online system, or video-on-demand services from cable and satellite services.


Anonymous said...

Great idea, if all the songwriters & artists licensing can be worked out. I believe this is what's been holding up the official release of Soul Train on Home DVD for years (though copies of the 100 1970's episodes that aired over in Japan and made it over here to America about 10 years ago can still be found in the collectors circle). In a response to a statement made in the origianl article, unfortunately I don't think Michael Jackson ever performed "Got To Be There" on Soul Train. It appears all the Jackson Five/Jacksons/Michael Jackson Soul Train shows from the 70's did air over in Japan, and "Got To Be There" was not one of the songs Michael performed on those shows.

C.P. Lehman said...

There's a new book out about the show, called A CRITICAL HISTORY OF SOUL TRAIN ON TELEVISION. It looks at the show from its start in Chicago in 1970 to the national franchise of 2008. It contains interviews with former dancers, guests, and colleagues of Cornelius.
This is the weblink.

Anonymous said...

Great news, where has Don been? I miss his wonderful, bass voice. Good luck with moving into the digital age!